How To Write Every Oregon State University College Application Essay 2019-20 – While Staying Organized!

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Oregon State really wants to get to know you! There are no less than six supplemental Oregon State University college application essays for 2019-20. (That’s down from seven for last year!) Even though each individual essay is short, that’s still a lot of writing! Let’s start by taking a look at the prompts.

OSU would like to better understand your perspectives, contributions, qualifications, and diverse talents. Please address your experience in each category keeping in mind how what you know could contribute to the future community of excellence at OSU. Respond to the questions and limit answers to 100 words per question.


Leadership/Group Contributions:

Describe examples of your leadership experience in which you significantly influenced others, helped resolve disputes, or contributed to group efforts over time. Consider responsibilities to initiatives taken in or out of school. (100 words)


Knowledge in a field/creativity:

Describe any special interests and how you have developed knowledge in these areas. Give examples of your creativity- the ability to see alternatives; take diverse perspectives; come up with many, varied, or original ideas; or willingness to try new things. (100 words)


Dealing with adversity:

Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to address this challenge. Include whether you turned to anyone in facing the challenge, the role the person played, and what you learned about yourself. (100 words)


Community service:

Explain what you have done to make your community a better place to live. Give examples of specific projects in which you have been involved over time. (100 words)


Handling systemic challenges:

Describe your experiences facing or witnessing discrimination. Tell us how you responded and what you learned from these experiences and how they have prepared you to contribute to the OSU community. (100 words)


Goals/task commitment:

Articulate the goals you have established for yourself and your efforts to accomplish these. Give at least one specific example that demonstrates your work ethic/diligence. (100 words)


That’s a lot! What’s the most efficient way to write great responses to all of these essays? The key is prewriting.

Prewriting techniques help you develop ideas and make a “plan of action” for your writing. This will help you prepare to write your Oregon State University college application essays.


Let’s take a more in-depth look at some prewriting techniques!


Brainstorming can be really helpful when you’re trying to choose a topic. Make a list of all the ideas you can think of. Don’t judge your ideas right now - you can narrow it down later!

Here’s an example student’s brainstorming list for one activity, as part of their response to the “Community Service” prompt:

  • Activity: Student Council President
  • Impact on community/me:
  • I created a senior/sophomore mentorship program
  • I increased participation in student council activities
  • It led me to a new goal – I want to take on leadership roles in my future business career

Why this works: This student generated several ideas that she could use to respond to the prompt. She may not use all of this, but she has a lot of material to work with!

If you’re really stuck, try freewriting. Freewriting can help you overcome a mental block and generate ideas. Resolve to write for a short period of time (5-10 minutes) when the only rule is that you can’t stop. You can even write “Ahh! I can’t think of any ideas!” as long as you keep writing. You might be surprised what you come up with!


Narrowing Your Topic:

You may have a lot of ideas from your brainstorming session. However, these 100-word essays are very short, so try to focus on one idea in each essay.

How do you narrow it down? First, eliminate any topics that don’t fulfill the prompt. Then, from the remaining options, pick a topic that you really care about!



These 100-word essays are short, so you don’t need an elaborate outline. However, a quick outline can still help! Try making a bulleted list of the main 3-5 points you want to cover, in the order you’ll cover them.

Let’s look at an example student’s outline for the Dealing with Adversity prompt:

  • Challenge: I was unprepared for the difficulty level of my AP Comp Sci class
  • Steps Taken: Started a study group with classmates
  • What I learned: I have to be proactive when I face academic challenges

Why this works: The Dealing With Adversity prompt is complicated – it asks for a lot of information! This outline will help the student stay organized and make sure they fulfill the entire prompt.


Note: The following prompt from 2018-19 has been cut, so don’t worry about it for this year!

Describe Three Activities

Please describe up to three extracurricular activities, leadership positions, jobs, or awards that have had the most significant impact on you and/or your community. Information in this section will not affect your admission to OSU as a whole, but will be considered in decisions related to admission for the OSU Honors College. Please limit each description to 100 words or less. (3 activities at 100 words per activity = 300 word max)

Written by
DT Wang
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